From the moment we found out Fiona was on her way, Ryan was gunning for a girl. He wanted a girl so much that he had no idea what he would do if the baby turned out to be a boy. I kind of wanted a boy, but I’m pretty sure the pink outcome was meant to be. All the self-styled clairvoyants who come out of the woodwork when a woman has a baby belly predicted that it would be a girl. When we thought about names, we came up with about a dozen for a girl – and only three for a boy. When she screamed her way out of me, Ryan was allowed to announce the sex, and did so with a line that still makes me laugh – “it’s a girl …. I think”. As soon as he said that, before the nurse placed her in my arms, I knew I wouldn’t have traded her for any number of boys. I still wouldn’t.
Flash forward to my second pregnancy – Ryan and I both wanted Thing 2 to be a girl. We had been living with a baby girl for over a year, and we couldn’t think of anything better. (Well, aside from sleeping in or drinking coffee while it was still hot – but that horse had bolted, and closing the gate was no longer an option anyway.) Other people really wanted the second baby to be a boy. Some people said “that way, you’ll have one of each”. As if children are collectables. Others said “oh, well, this one has to be a boy – for Ryan”. Ryan, who wanted a girl even more this time around, because he actually knew what he was wishing for. As if a man’s life is not complete unless he’s left behind an anatomically correct copy of himself. In any case, when Bridget was yanked out of me (a breech baby who refused to turn, born at a hospital where there was only one doctor with any experience in natural breech births – yes, please, I’ll take that scheduled c-section), and we saw that we had another girl on our hands, we both had tears of joy in our eyes. Another girl! A sister for Fiona! What a blessing Bridget was (and is).
Of course, Bridget was about a week old when a few people asked us if we were going to try for a boy. And is it just me, or is that a really icky question? “Yes, I know you’ve just spent the better part of a year pregnant and delivered a healthy baby girl just days ago and you’re probably super-stoked about that, but are you going to have unprotected sex again anytime soon in the hopes of conceiving a human with a penis?” Anyway. In the eight years that we have been a family of four that includes two girls, I have learned that there are some things you never have enough of when you live that way.
1. Ear plugs. Though they are close, Fiona and Bridget have their share of conflict. When they cross swords, it’s loud and high-pitched. I often tell people that they make noises only dogs or dolphins could interpret when they’re upset with each other. They don’t pound each other like my brother and I used to do. They use emotional weapons. They natter and chip away at each other. They fling accusations and cruel jabs around like confetti at the saddest, most annoying party you’ve ever been to. They mutter things under their breath, then refuse to repeat them while the offended party demands double-digit times to hear whatever was muttered. They know exactly where all the buttons are and how to push them. Whatever you do, though, do not get involved. You will regret it. You’ll come along, wanting to be a hero, with your casual “hey, now, what’s all this” – and they will steal all the air in the room and paste you to the wall with their rapid-fire account of what really happened, interrupting and shrieking atop each other until your eyes cross and you’re tempted to feign death to make it stop. For double the noise, let them have one of their friends over. Then they start to resemble a siren as they chase each other from room to room. Also, there is all that talking. Girls talk and talk and talk, with nary a concession to punctuation or even the need to breathe, and every single thing they say is utterly fascinating to them and therefore you must stop everything and soak it in. For as long as it takes. Come to think of it, I never stopped doing that. Must add ear plugs for Ryan to the shopping list ….
2. Tissues. In any given group of girls, at any time of the day or night, someone is guaranteed to be crying. They are so sensitive and dramatic that a single look can contain a paragraph of the unspoken, all of it to be taken personally. Don’t like the game everyone’s playing? Cry. Two people are talking and giggling? It’s totes about you. Cry. Your friend’s crush likes her and yours doesn’t know you exist? Cry. Other girls have a plan and you havn’t been included (yet)? The teacher cleared her throat and it was so directed at you? There’s a YouTube video featuring orphaned kittens? Your hair won’t go the way you want it to? You don’t like any of your shirts? It’s Thursday and you wanted it to be Friday (yes, this actually happened in our house recently)? Cry, cry, cry. (Like that bit of Johnny? Me, too.) “My green shirt is …. well, it’s just too …. green. I don’t think it was this green last time I wore it. It was my favourite shirt, too. I’ll never get another shirt like this, not ever. I hate this shirt. I hate all my shirts.” Pass the tissues.
3. Glitter. They put that shit on everything. Artwork, hair, skin, nails, siblings, pets. You can get it in a spray can. Imagine the fallout …. I don’t have to imagine because we had that once, and the results still shimmer and wink at me from our walls and ceiling. Glitter is like an infectious disease that is resistant to all medicines – once you’ve got it, you’re a carrier for life. Our house has not been glitter-free since Fiona was a toddler. Next time you’re at my house, ask me to show you where the glitter is. Currently, there’s some on the upstairs bathroom floor because Bridget spilled a container of it while trying to put it on her lips. There’s also a more-or-less permanent dusting of it on the laundry room floor because they have clothes with built-in glitter that rubs off in the washer and dryer. Consequently, I have glitter on my clothes. The rugs in their bedrooms have received a generous dusting, as has the carpet in the basement. And yet if you ask them what craft supply they need most, about three-quarters of the time they’ll say glitter. Or glitter paint. Or glitter glue. Sometimes I feel like I live inside a disco ball. Sparkle, sparkle!
4. Storage space. Glitter is just the beginning. Fiona and Bridget have multiple lotions and perfumes. They have about fifty pairs of earrings, and multiple necklaces and bracelets to match. They’ve got bath stuff and hair stuff and face stuff and nail stuff – 24 different shades of nail polish, to be exact. (And before you conclude that Ryan and I are raising shopaholic princesses who spend a good chunk of their time and all of their money in pursuit of retail therapy, please note that not a single bottle of nail polish was purchased by either of them. They are two of just three grandchildren on either side of the family (and their baby cousin, Scarlett, is still too young to do anything with cosmetics aside from eating them). They have fashionable aunties. Nail polish is a popular item in loot bags, and they go to alot of birthday parties. Doesn’t take long to get to double-digits bottles.) Along with nail polish, they each have nearly a dozen lip glosses. They’ve got several pairs of shoes and boots each, and a pile of hats, scarves and belts. My stuff is crowded out, smothered, consumed by their stuff. They’ve got a menagerie of stuffies. They keep everything because everything is so special. More tissues, please. They have valentines they received in kindergarten from children they wouldn’t know from a hole in the ground anymore. They have sparkly rocks and pinecones and lucky buttons – and, thanks to Ryan and their Uncle D, a growing collection of beer caps. They have over a dozen Barbies and Monster High Dolls, and all the things that go with them. Their bookshelves are literally overflowing with books they might never read again but they have to keep them because ….
5. Hair junk. Between Fiona and Bridget (and me, of course), there’s alot of hair in this house. Hair clogs up our vacuum cleaner. It clings to the furniture. It lands in our food. Tumbleweeds of old hair blow by when we open a window. It needs to be contained. This isn’t easy when styles change regularly, and you’re dealing with 8-and-10-year-old girls who change even more often than styles. Headbands, bandanas, scrunchies, bun donuts, butterfly clips, barrettes and bobby pins must all be available in every possible size and colour to answer to any hair situation at all times. We have brushes, combs and rakes. We’ve also got hairspray (in plain, blue, pink and – natch – glitter), and we’ve got hair wax for the newly-embraced-at-our-place side bang. We’ve got mousse, and curl-lock, too. There’s colour cream in purple and green, and hair chalk in ten different shades. At the end of it all, we’ve got de-tangler. You might need that if you’ve used even a fraction of our cornucopia of hair junk.
6. Nail polish remover. As mentioned above, we’ve got two dozen bottles of nail polish. In addition to that, we have nail stickers and – of course – nail glitter. Bridget paints her nails every two or three days. On a related note, she smudges her freshly painted nails on everything every two or three days. In a striking coincidence, she uses copious amounts of nail polish remover – you guessed it – every two or three days. Because she is trying to be delicate with her still-sticky nails, she handles the nail polish remover gingerly – and the lack of a firm grip results in frequent spills. She uses whatever remains in the bottle to clean up the smudges. I buy an econo-sized bottle of nail polish remover about once per month. I’m high from the smell of it about five days out of every seven. Fiona never really cared for painting her nails until about a week ago. Now she has lovely midnight blue nails, and she likes them that way. I may soon need a nail polish remover pipe run into my house, topped up every couple of months by a truck, like we used to do with oil for our furnace.
7. Self-confidence (at least, if you are their mother). For one thing, daughters are blunt. You are an extension of them, a piece of their life cycle. They see you as both their example and their cautionary tale. I knew that it was time to start working out again when they told me my ass wobbled when I walked. I know when my hairstyle or outfit isn’t working for me, because they let me know. They ask me when I’m going to paint my nails again because the old polish is chipped. One morning, Bridget fearfully asked if I was going to wear that when I picked them up from school the following afternoon. I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, nothing wrong with that, but my hair was in a messy bun and I wasn’t wearing earrings – it just wouldn’t do. On the other hand, they still say things like “she was pretty, Mommy, but not as pretty as you” and “I hope I look just like you when I grow up” and “I love your style”. I guess I do have my moments …. The main reason, though, that you need self-confidence if you are the mother of daughters is that they are so perfect. Their eyes are clear and bright, their smile is doll-like in its perfection, their hair has highlights that every woman over the age of 19 has to squeeze out of a bottle and apply every four to six weeks. They havn’t mangled their eyebrows yet, like we all somehow end up doing in spite of the warnings of our mothers. Their skin is flawless and golden, stretched tight over their muscles and bones as smooth as a clear sky. They are all legs and arms and ponytails. I’ve got crow’s feet and laugh lines and grey hair. I’ve got a jiggle in my wiggle that’s probably never going away, and I wear the indentations of my pillow and pyjamas for a good hour after I wake up. Their sun is rising; mine is inching toward the horizon.
I imagine there’s alot more Ryan and I need that I havn’t thought of, and things I don’t know we’ll need as they grow up. I look forward to hearing from other parents of multiple girls, and learning as I go. Don’t make the stories too sappy, though. We’re perilously low on tissues here. We’re one botched craft or serving of asparagus away from running out.